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Another game, another shutout win for UNH hockey team

DURHAM – It wasn’t the fastest start for the University of New Hampshire men’s hockey team, which needed more than five minutes to put its first shot on net.

That shot, however, went in. And after that, there was no stopping the Wildcats.

No. 9 UNH scored on both ends of a man advantage and twice at even strength to roll to a 4-0 victory over Vermont last night at the Whittemore Center.

“We generated a lot of good opportunities,” Coach Dick Umile said. “We played as well defensively as we’ve played. … We needed to play 60 minutes and finish the game, and we did that tonight, start to finish.”

Austin Block, the team’s leading scorer, scored his sixth and seventh goals of the season, while Kevin Goumas had three assists to take over the team lead with nine.

“I’ve been working hard in practice,” Block said. “Play game-like, go to the net hard.”

The only flicker of doubt for UNH (6-1-1, 4-1-1) came 5:27 into the game, when Vermont (1-3-2) went on the power play. Disaster struck for the Catamounts, however, when they weren’t able to keep a clearing attempt along the boards in the UNH zone, and Grayson Downing gathered the puck on a breakaway. His wrister beat Vermont goalie Brody Hoffman, giving the Wildcats a shorthanded goal and 1-0 lead.

The Wildcats went on the power play 12:07 into the game, and didn’t take long to convert. Greg Burke won the opening faceoff and Justin Agosta tipped the puck back to defenseman Eric Knodel, who found the net with a slapshot to make it 2-0.

“Special teams have gone well,” Umile said. “Both of our coaches, Scott (Borek) handles our power play and Jimmy (Tortorella) does the shorthand, they’ve got the groups playing well.”

Block finished off the Catamounts with a pair of dirty-work goals. He got the first 1:56 into the second period, when Goumas and Trevor VanRiemsdyk missed up close and he was able to knock in a rebound, and he got the final tally when Goumas ripped a wrister from the slot and Block tipped the shot into the net 5:44 into the third.

“Those weren’t the prettiest goals I’ve ever scored,” Block said. “But I’m not unhappy about it.”

The goals were way more than Vermont could afford against goalie Casey DeSmith, who continued his torrid stretch by making 27 saves for his third shutout in four games and second in a row, becoming the first UNH goalie to pull off back-to-back shutouts since Kevin Regan did it in March 2007.

“Once you get on a roll like this, you just start seeing the puck just a little bit better,” DeSmith said. “When the pucks don’t go in, you start thinking nothing’s going in.”

He had help throughout the game, however. Hardly any of the 27 shots he stopped ranged beyond routine, thanks to a UNH defense that did a great job of preventing good looks for the Catamount forwards.

“He didn’t have to make any big saves,” Umile said. “They got some shots, but they didn’t get second and third shots. They were mostly outside.”

It wasn’t perfect – Umile pointed out two missed power-play chances that could have sealed the game even earlier. But it was close enough.

“I’m not going to be negative with it,” he said. “I thought we played a pretty good 60-minute hockey game, and I’m pleased with that.”

(Drew Bonifant can be reached at abonifant@cmonitor.com or at 369-3340, or via Twitter at @dbonifant.)

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